FCS Roundtable: Midseason Playoff Progress Report


Taking inventory on the playoff picture may still be a tad premature, but at midseason we are getting more of season which teams are postseason material, and which are not. Bubbles are sure to bust with each passing week. While some are playing just to get into the field of 20, others like Northern Iowa, Montana State, and Georgia Southern look to remain pace setters down the stretch. The FCS Roundtable takes mid-point peek at where the playoff chase is headed.

Kyle Roth, Bison Illustrated and Bison Sports Blog

First, the autobids:

Big Sky: Montana State – Denarius McGhee is starting to look like the QB I thought he could be.

Big South: Coastal Carolina – Early season win over Furman looks better and better. Big game this weekend vs. quasi-ranked Liberty.

CAA: James Madison – Traditional CAA powers Delaware and W&M are fading fast.

MEAC: Norfolk State – Gutty win over South Carolina State two weeks ago, 3 of last 5 at home including other MEAC undefeated North Carolina A&T on Senior Day.

MVFC: Northern Iowa – Have to acknowledge the way UNI is handling MVFC teams while NDSU has struggled offensively. October 29th looms.

NEC: Albany – Kind of a crapshoot, no at-large bids coming out of this league regardless.

OVC: Jacksonville State – Very tricky conference to try and figure out. The Gamecocks get the nod due to facing Tennessee Tech at home after taking on SEC opponent Kentucky next weekend.

Patriot: Lehigh – The Mountain Hawks are looking every bit the team that beat UNI in the playoffs last season and QB Chris Lum could very well win the Payton. Lehigh’s offense is clicking.

SoCon: Wofford – Georgia Southern has a brutal schedule in their final four games, including road trips to Appalachian State and Wofford and finishing the regular season at Alabama. Wofford gets the go-ahead after the Eagles struggled against Chattanooga this past weekend.

Southland: Sam Houston State – The Bearkats are starting to look like a top-5 team in the FCS. Big game on the 22nd at McNeese, who could earn an autobid out of the Southland.

At-Large Bids:

CAA (3) – New Hampshire, Delaware, Maine – Towson out by virtue of 4 of last 6 on the road. Really tough call considering how strong their defense has looked thus far on the season.

MVFC (2) – North Dakota State, Indiana State – Southern Illinois was another team I thought could earn a third at-large bid out of the Valley, but their offense has had struggles passing the ball with starting QB Paul McIntosh out.

SoCon (2) – Georgia Southern, Appalachian State – Huge trap game for the Moutaineers as they hit the road for Furman after facing Georgia Southern on the road, and depending on the outcome of those two games the SoCon could get very interesting. Only two teams based on how the conference mates beat each other up (see Chattanooga @ Citadel).

Big Sky (2) – Montana, Sacramento State – Both have just one remaining road game and Sac State could legitimately run the table. Even with a loss, a win over Pac-12 Oregon State puts the Hornets in, though if I have to say Sac State is definitely my last team in. And with just one at-large bid remaining as the power conferences gobble everything else up, my pick goes to…

OVC (1) – Tennessee Tech – Very tough call. Lack of quality OOC wins due to playing a D-II (W) and Big Ten Iowa (L). Probably 8-2 finish with only real challenge at Jacksonville State. Furman, Chattanooga or Towson could easily swoop in and steal the only non-power conference bid left and leave the other conferences hanging.

Joe Suhoski, VBR Productions & CAA Analysis for SaturdayBlitz.com

At this point it’s still too early to accurately predict the entire playoff field. However there are still a few programs worth discussing.

1. Georgia Southern – This team has maintained its #1 ranking for most of the season, and justifiably so. Midway through the season it’s difficult to imagine them not making the playoffs. But they’ve experienced injuries at key positions, and their depth will be tested in the second half. They were my preseason pick to win the national title and I’m sticking with them at this point.

2. William and Mary – My other prediction at the start of the season was that the Tribe would battle with GSU for the title. It’s not looking good for this team through six games, though – they’re 3-3 with two conference losses and a win over a D2 school. They will need to win out the rest of their schedule to reach seven FCS wins and simply be considered for the playoffs. Inconsistencies at quarterback have let down a superior defense.

3. Old Dominion and Towson – The Monarchs and Tigers were voted by the CAA coaches and SID’s to finish tenth and eleventh in the preseason poll, respectively. Through the first six weeks they have a combined 9-2 record, including 4-1 against conference opponents. Towson travels to ODU this weekend in an unexpected matchup of top 25 teams; whoever wins this contest can use the game as a propulsion into the playoffs.

4. New Hampshire – I could continue to list several other CAA schools but will end with the 4-1 Wildcats. They have an outstanding leader in quarterback Kevin Decker, who has thrown for 13 touchdowns and rushed for another six in only five games. He and the offense have made up for a defense that took a couple step backwards from its top-five status last year. If Decker continues his hot play, New Hampshire will play well into December.

5. Appalachian State – At 3-2 the Mountaineers deserve special attention, because they are the toughest team to predict. They are 1-1 in conference but easily could have been 0-2 if not for two defensive touchdowns against UTC. They lost at Wofford by two touchdowns last week and still host Georgia Southern and travel to Furman. The Mountaineers must regroup to finish its conference play strong and earn a berth to the playoffs.

6. Montana State – The Bobcats are 3-0 in the Big Sky (5-1 overall) and play the bottom teams in conference standings in the next three weeks (Northern Arizona, Northern Colorado and Idaho State ). If they win these three games they will take an eight-game winning streak into Weber State , followed by a season finale against Montana . This is one team to monitor as regular season play winds down.

Russell Varner, SouthernPigskin.com

As the playoff landscape finally begins to take shape, we are faced with an intriguing and nearly mind-boggling possibility: Appalachian State could very well be fighting for their playoff lives.

The Mountaineers have been struggling lately and, if they cannot beat Georgia Southern at home later this month, will likely need some outside help in order to secure a spot in the playoffs. Can you imagine a playoff without a game in Boone or without the black and gold in at all? Difficult I know.

Coming into this season, there was hope that the SoCon could get four teams into the playoffs, with Chattanooga going App, Georgia Southern and Wofford. The Mocs, despite two great performances on the road against the Mountaineers and Eagles, have more or less played themselves out of the playoff picture. Outside of them, Furman is the SoCon’s next best hope to get four teams in the playoffs, but right now, I think the conference should worry more about making sure their top three get in.

Right now, I say App, Georgia Southern and Wofford are in. The Mountaineers, if the playoffs were to start right now, would be out in the first round. Until they find themselves offensively again, they are a shell of the dominating force we have become so used to seeing. I believe that both Georgia Southern and Wofford would be able to make deeps in the playoffs. Both teams are playing extremely well right now on both sides of the ball. Both squads have traditionally been known for their strong rushing attacks and defense, but both the Eagles and Terriers have been able to add a passing threat to their offenses, making them close to unstoppable and a big reason why they are the top two offenses in the conference.